Question: If someone is following his own religion, does that mean he is leading a spiritual life?

Sri Chinmoy: We have to know if he is following his religion on a purely human level or on a divine level. If it is on a purely human level, then he is not leading a true spiritual life. What if I tell a disciple of mine, “Don’t smoke,” and then when that disciple unexpectedly knocks at my door, he sees that I am smoking at home? If he asked me, “What are you doing?” I could say that even if I smoke, I am not affected. But the disciple would say, “If you are not affected, why do you tell us not to smoke?” If I say, “I am above you, so I can do this,” that will not satisfy him. The disciple will just say, “Then how can I have faith in you? The disciple wants something from his Master and that is sincerity. If the Master cannot do something himself, how can he demand it of his disciples? It is ridiculous.

Let me tell you a story. One day a mother took her son to a doctor. The child was suffering from a stomach ache because of something he had eaten. When they arrived, the doctor was eating sugar and molasses. The mother said, “My child is suffering from a stomach ache, from some kind of internal pain. Please help him.”

The doctor said, “I will give you some medicine that will relieve his pain temporarily, but the real cure I won’t give you today. You must bring him tomorrow.” When the mother brought the child the next day, the doctor said, “Look, my child, don’t take sugar. Then the medicine I am giving you will cure you permanently.”

The mother said, “Why didn’t you tell him that yesterday?”

The doctor replied, “If I had told him yesterday, he would have had no faith in me. He would have said, ‘Look, he is eating the thing he is asking me not to eat.’ Today I am a good man; I am not eating sugar, so I can tell your child, ‘See, I am not taking sugar, so you should also stop.’ ”

So, if your Guru does something and then professes that you should not do it, why should you have faith in him? You will ask how your Guru can make that kind of demand from you. Everything is reciprocal. If I am nice and kind to you, you are bound to reciprocate. But if I deceive you consciously or unconsciously, then it is different. Consciously you may not know what I am doing at home. If I drink liquor, how will you be able to know? But inwardly your inner being will tell you whether I am drinking or meditating. I cannot deceive you if you are my true disciple because my inner connection with you is so close.

If I am doing something wrong, a true disciple will easily be able to catch me, even if he is in our Puerto Rico Centre and I am in New York. This shows how close the relationship is between a Guru and his disciple. So my personal feeling is always that whatever the Guru tells others to do he must also do in his own life. It is like this. A child always tries to imitate his parents. In his childhood, if he tells a lie, immediately he gets a slap from his parents. Then he says to himself that since his parents tell the truth all the time, since they are so nice and sincere, he also wants to do the same. Then he grows like a flower. But he may see that his parents are telling him to stop telling lies while they are telling lies in season and out of season. When the child is small he is somewhat afraid of his parents. He does not know what to say to them. But when he grows up he will say, “Look at what you yourselves are doing.”

So in the beginning the disciples are very devoted to their Guru, just like a child to his parents. They do not argue with him, for they are afraid of what their Guru might do. They think he might have tremendous occult and spiritual power and burn them into ashes. Then when they mature inwardly the disciples also get some spiritual knowledge and they say, “Guru, what are you doing?”